« AnteriorContinuar »
man on man.
country, their name of Puritans; which, though given in derision, was as honourable a one as was ever bestowed by
That there were hypocrites among them, is not to be doubted; but they were rare; the men who voluntarily exiled themselves to an unknown coast, and endured there every toil and hardship, for conscience' sake, and that they might serve God in their own manner, were not likely to set conscience at defiance, and make the service of God a mockery; they were not likely to be, neither were they, hypocrites. I do not know that it would be arrogating too much for them to say, that, on the extended surface of the globe, there was not a single community of men to be compared with them, in the respects of deep religious impressions, and an exact performance of moral duty.
What I would especially inculcate is, that, estimating as impartially as we are able the virtues and defects of our forefathers' character, we should endeavour to imitate the first, and avoid the last.
Were they tenderly jealous of their inborn rights, and resolved to maintain them, in spite of the oppressor ? And shall we ever be insensible to their value, and part with the vigilance which should watch, and the courage which should defend them ? Rather let the ashes of our fathers, which have been cold so long, warm and quicken in their graves, and return imbodied to the surface, and drive away their degenerate sons from the soil which their toils and sufferings purchased !
Rather let the beasts of the wilderness come back to a wilderness, and couch for prey in our desolate gardens, and bring forth their young in our marts, and howl nightly to the moon, amidst the grass-grown ruins of our prostrate cities! Rather let the red sons of the forest reclaim their pleasant hunting grounds, and rekindle the council fires which once threw their glare upon the eastern water, and roam over our hills and plains, without crossing a single track of the white man !
I am no advocate for war. I abominate its spirit and its cruelties. But to me there appears a wide and essential difference between resistance and aggression. It is aggression, it is the love of arbitrary domination, it is the insane thirst for what the world has too long and too indiscriminately called glory, which light up the flames of war and devastation.
Without aggression on the one side, no resistance would be roused on the other, and there would be no war. And if all aggression was met by determined resistance, then, too, there would be no war; for the spirit of aggression would be humbled and repressed. I would that it might be the universal principle of our countrymen, and the determination of our rulers, never to offer the slightest injury, never to commit the least outrage, though it were to obtain territory, or fame, or any selfish advantage.
In this respect I would that the example which was sometimes set by our forefathers, might be altogether forsaken. But let us never forsake their better example of stern resistance ; let us cherish and perpetuate their lofty sentiments of freedom; let us tread the soil which they planted for us as free as they did, or lie down at once beside them.
* The land we from our fathers had in trust
Our fathers were pious—eminently so. Let us forever venerate and imitate this part of their character. When the children of the pilgrims forget that Being, who was the pilgrim's Guide and Deliverer; when the descendants of the Puritans cease to acknowledge, and obey, and love that Being, for whose service the Puritans forsook all that men chiefly love, enduring scorn and reproach, exile and poverty, and finding at last a superabundant reward; when the sons of a religious and holy ancestry fall away from its high communion, and join themselves to the assemblies of the profane ;-they have stained the lustre of their parentage; they have forfeited the dear blessings of their inheritance; and they deserve to be cast out from this fair land, without even a wilderness for their refuge. No! Let us still keep the ark of God in the midst of us; let us adopt the prayer of the wise monarch of Israel,-"The Lord our God be with us, as he was with our fathers; let him not leave us, nor forsake us; that he may incline our hearts unto him, to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and his statutes, and his judgements, which he commanded our fathers."
But our fathers were too rigidly austere. It may be thought, that, even granting this to be their fault, we are so rapidly advancing toward an opposite extreme, that any thing like a caution against it is out of season, and superfluous. And yet I see not why the notiee of every fault should not be accompanied with a corresponding caution.
That we are in danger of falling into one excess, is a reason why we should be most anxiously on our guard at the place of exposure; but it is no reason why another excess should not be reprobated, and pointed out with the finger of warning. The difficulty is, and the desire and effort should be, between these, as well as all other extremes, to steer an equal course, and preserve a safe medium.
I acknowledge that luxury, and the blandishments of prosperity and wealth, are greatly to be feared, and if our softnesses, and indulgences, and foreign fashions, must, inevitably, accomplish our seduction, and lead us away from the simplicity, honesty, sobriety, purity, and manly independence of our forefathers, most readily and fervently would I exclaim, Welcome back to the pure old times of the Puritans ! welcome back to the strict observances of their strictest days! welcome, thrice welcome, to all their severity, all their gloom ! for infinitely better would be hard doctrines and dark brows, Jewish Sabbaths, strait garments, formal manners, and a harsh guardianship, than dissoluteness and effeminacy; than empty pleasures and shameless debauchery ; tban lolling ease, and pampered pride, and fluttering vanity; than unprincipled, faithless, corrupted rulers, and a people unworthy of a more exalted government.
But is it necessary that we must be either gloomy or corrupt, either formal or profane, either extravagant in strictness, or extravagant in dissipation and levity? Can we not so order our habits, and so fix our principles, as not to suffer the luxuries of our days to choke, and strangle, with their rankness, the simple morality of our fathers' days, nor permit a reverence for their stiff and inappropriate formalities and austerities to overshadow and repress our innocent comforts and delights?
Let us attempt, at least, to maintain ourselves in so desirable a medium. Let us endeavour to preserve whatever was excellent in the manners and lives of the Puritans, while we forsake what was inconsistent or unreasonable; and then we shall hardly fail to be wiser and happier, and even better, than they were.
Extract from the Speech of W. Pitt, Earl of Chatham, in the
British Parliament, January, 1775. My lords I rise with astonishment to see these papers brought to your table at so late a period of this business ;papers, to tell us what? Why, what all the world knew before; that the Americans, irritated by repeated injuries, and stripped of their inborn rights and dearest privileges, have resisted, and entered into associations for the preseryation of their common liberties.
Had the early situation of the people of Boston been attended to, things would not have come to this. But the infant complaints of Boston were literally treated like the capricious squalls of a child, who, it was said, did not know whether it was aggrieved or not. But, full well I knew, at that time, that this child, if not redressed, would soon assume the courage and voice of a man. Full well I knew, that the sons of ancestors, born under the same free constitution, and once breathing the same liberal air, as Englishmen, would resist upon the same principles, and on the same occasions.
What has government done? They have sent an armed force, consisting of seventeen thousand men, to dragoon' the Bostonians into what is called their duty; and, so far from once turning their eyes to the impolicy and destructive consequence of this scheme, are constantly sending out more troops. And we are told, in the language of menace, that, if seventeen thousand men won't do, fifty thousand shall.
It is true, my lords, with this force, they may savage country, waste and destroy as they march; but, in the progress of fifteen hundred miles, can they occupy the places
they have passed? Will not a country, which can produce three millions of people, wronged and insulted as they are, start up, like hydras, in every corner, and gather fresh strength from fresh opposition ? Nay, what dependence can you have upon the soldiery, the unhappy engines of your wrath? They are Englishmen, who must feel for the privileges of Englishmen. Do you think that these men can turn their arms against their brethren ? Surely not. A victory must be to them a defeat; and carnage, a sacrifice.
But it is not merely three millions of people, the produce of America, we have to contend with, in this unnatural struggle; many more are on their side, dispersed over the face of this wide empire. Every whig in this country and in Ireland is with them. Who, then, let me demand, bas given, and continues to give, this strange and unconstitutional advice? I do not mean to level at any one man, or any particular set of men; but, thus much I will venture to declare, that, if his majesty continues to hear such counsellors, he will not only be badly advised, but undone. He may continue, indeed, to wear his crown; but it will not be worth his wearing. Robbed of so principal a jewel as America, it will lose its lustre, and no longer beam that effulgence, which should irradiate the brow of majesty.
In this alarming crisis, I come, with this paper in my hand, to offer you the best of my experience and advice; which is, that an humble petition be presented to his majesty, beseeching him, that, in order to open the way towards a happy settlement of the dangerous troubles in America, it may graciously please him, that immediate orders be given to General Gage for removing his majesty's forces from the town of Boston.
And this, my lords, upon the most mature and deliberate grounds, is the best advice I can give you, at this juncture. Such conduct will convince America that you mean to try her cause in the spirit of freedom and inquiry, and not in letters of blood. There is no time to be lost. Every hour is big with danger. Perhaps, while I am now speaking, the decisive blow is struck, which may involve millions in the consequence. And, believe me, the very first drop of blood which is shed, will cause a wound which may never be healed.